When George Washington took his oath of office as the first President of the United States in 1789, he placed his hand upon an inaugural Bible. When Barack Obama was sworn in to office, he used the Lincoln Bible for his inaugural ceremony.
It’s a time-honored tradition in Washington not only for the president but also for members of congress to use the Bible or other religious texts during their swearing-in ceremonies. But it’s a practice that atheists are now urging lawmakers to abandon.
According to a post at washingtontimes.com, a group called the Secular Coalition for America has asked members of congress to use copies of the Constitution, or nothing at all, as they take their oath of office today.
“By taking the oath of office on the Constitution, senators will demonstrate their commitment to our secular government, the laws that they’re affirming to uphold, and the people they were elected to represent,” said the coalition, which bills itself as a group of atheists, agnostics and humanists who are fighting against religious influences in politics.
As the 114th Congress officially opens today for business with the GOP controlling both chambers, all members of the House and more than a third of the Senate are scheduled to raise their right hands and repeat the current oath of office adopted in 1884.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.
The Washington Times article notes that there is no legal requirement that a religious text of any kind be used for the congressional ceremonies:
…and many lawmakers will simply hold up their hand — particularly for the official swearing-in on the chamber floor. But most do choose to hold a text for the ceremonial swearing-in.
The Secular Coalition for America is the same group that holds an annual Lobby Day and Secular Summit in the nation’s capital. According to the organization’s website, this yearly event teaches non-believers to lobby their representatives to shape public policy to have less religious influence.
Advertisement - story continues below